A fifth-grade bully, a blossoming romance, a late-night crash
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In the future “work” as is now known will exist for only a few technicians. Most citizens will be supported by a welfare state which is fully automated. This will be achieved in each home by a device that looks much like an electric chair.
That chair will also be electric, but instead of extracting total life from its victim, it will only take measured amounts. Once a week each adult will adjust its control panel to a specified type of work and length of time, of unlimited choice. The user then straps himself into the chair, throws the switch and subjectively accomplishes “work.”
An hour in the hotseat would produce in that person a sensation so real he will think he actually did work, although condensed into one twentieth the usual time — opposite the theory of supposed sleep machines. Afterwards, the user would be tired and drained both intellectually and emotionally, in proportion to time and job indicated. When finally unstrapping himself, a slot in the chair would release a government check for the appropriate wages.
This device will be useless to society, except that all citizens will feel that they earned their charity. Drudgery and inconvenience for the worker will be eliminated, though the intensity of that hour would require a full day’s rest. The remaining week would be free for the citizen. The state would be supported by a high tax on this machine which monopolizes the only access to “money.” Everyone would be happier since the alienation of ninety percent of modern jobs would vanish.
Pursuit of true happiness could then begin.
These days schools are too interesting and too oriented towards the individual. They overstress relevance, creativity, and enlightenment, which cause expectations to skyrocket and leave many disappointed. My education through high school and college lacked a vital training for America — how to adjust to boredom.
In my five years since graduation I have worked very hard at becoming accustomed to weariness, lack of challenge, absence of interest, and the void of mental stimulation so frequently encountered by working people. I think others could be helped by attending my proposed courses for high school and the last university year.
Students need training in which they are treated like an object, where they are humiliated, and, especially, forced to do tedious tasks for long periods. Also, grading of such classes should be harsher, with each individual receiving one letter grade lower than earned. This would prepare that person to work extremely hard for little reimbursement. I suggest calling the beginnings of this academic discipline, “Common Jobs, An Experience in Alienation; I and II.”
Exercises could include stacking desks in a classroom corner, and then unstacking the same desks. Advanced students could be required to stand on their feet in one position for at least eight hours — with nothing to do. Naturally, they would also be obliged to look busy, with grades depending upon the success of their deception. Outside assignments could cover waiting in traffic jams, working in a complaint department, being packed in subways, running for work whistles, and scheduling lives around time clocks.
Special projects could involve a top student with a natural craving like reading. This person could stand in a library for days without recourse to activity or communication, until joining the others to research term papers and complete them for fast deadlines. After all papers are gathered, each will be shredded before their eyes without comment or grading. Students would then relate their feelings in a forum called, “Frustration.” Interesting reactions like nervous breakdowns, fits of rage, and tears would all be ignored.
Those who survive this class could then join a fraternity called “Working Adults.” By way of recompense, survivors would receive any copy of modern poetry — the only truth for that part of these realists that remained, their souls.
I think this proposal can succeed, and only wish my background contained such helpful preparation. Maybe others will testify to similar experimental programs already in use.
I propose that the federal government begin an experimental retirement program for all adults. There should be guaranteed incomes with an inflation adjustment; however, the benefits would be administered differently from any plans now considered.
My idea is that all Americans over eighteen should receive regular benefits until the age of fifty. At fifty each person would start working to repay his debt into the large fund. By allowing social security to operate backwards, career people could still work, but those desiring very early retirement would also be pleased.
In this way, the active years of youth could be focused on total self-realization, while later years would be spent working to death. I think many of us would be more efficient employees if we lived the good life first. Naturally, most Americans could easily adjust to living on a federal credit card. After all, we see enough splendid examples in Washington.